Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division supported U.S. Army recruiting efforts at Washington Park Beach in Michigan City, Indiana, during an annual speed boat race, on Aug. 5 through 7, 2022.
Pilots and systems maintainers with 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division worked in tandem with U.S. Army Chicago Recruiting Battalion to promote awareness of the Army by facilitating a static display of an AH-64 Apache helicopter.
The helicopter arrived in style at the Great Lakes Grand Prix. Pilots flew along Lake Michigan’s southern shore, landed safely by the beach in a plume of dust, and set the stage for a weekend of high-octane entertainment.
“We love to see the interactive stuff that comes with the military,” said Jack Arnett, chief executive officer of LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau and one of the event’s coordinators. “It couldn’t be better. It adds a great touch to what we’re already doing. It brings a different demographic of folks out here that want to see that.”
Twelve years ago, members of the business and tourism bureau of the city were looking for an event to showcase Lake Michigan, Washington Park, and Michigan City. Last year, the Great Lakes Grand Prix brought over two hundred thousand spectators into the area. Now in its 13th year, the Great Lakes Grand Prix has become an international event with 72 race teams from around the globe.
It was a “normal” duty day with a twist for the 1-6 CAV soldiers. They performed maintenance checks and post-flight inspections as they interacted with race fans and teams. As soon as the Apache touched down, fans flocked to the helicopter to take pictures. Speedboat mechanics, whose hands were busy maintaining their race equipment, were intrigued by the work required to keep an Apache fit to fly.
“It’s a great feeling. I get to sit and talk about my job and educate people about what I do,” said Sgt. Kyle Mowen, an Apache helicopter maintainer with Bravo Troop, 1-6 CAV. “It’s nice to talk to the people. They could talk for days and days about boats and how they perform. They take a lot of pride in their boats.”
The helicopter display functioned as a jumping-off point for Army recruiters to interact with race fans and potential recruits while bringing more awareness of the U.S. Army to the public. The Commander of U.S. Army Chicago Recruiting Battalion, Lt. Col. Shane Doolan, said people were impressed with the aviation platform and equipment, emphasizing the importance of 1ID’s presence at the event.
"The active-duty Army is extremely underrepresented in this area," said Doolan. "The Apache here gives awareness to the community that the active-duty force is a force that is here to serve our communities as well. We’d love to see more partnerships where we can get more equipment like the Apache from the 1st Infantry Division so we can improve our influence with young adults and make the Army a top-tier decision."
After a day on the water, a pair of cranes lifted the boats from the harbor and loaded them onto trailers. 1-6 CAV troopers climbed aboard one of the boats and joined the race teams in a parade that circuited through parts of downtown Michigan City.
“I had never seen the Great Lakes before,” said Mowen. “So it was neat to come up, see the Great Lakes and experience the area. It’s all about broadening and expanding your experiences.”